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Durham ballot will decide controversial food tax

Posted November 3, 2008

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— Durham County voters will decide Tuesday on a proposed 1 percent meal tax that proponents say would mostly be used to fund cultural and recreational projects.

County and city leaders have worked for the better part of two decades for the tax, which would be applied to restaurant meals and prepared food at grocery stores. It could raise between $5 million and $7 million a year, officials estimate, with the average person paying a minimum of approximately $20 a year.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the citizens of Durham," said Robb Teer, co-chairman of the Prepared Food Tax Steering Committee.

Teer says that raising the same amount via property taxes would mean an additional $300 more a year on a $150,000 home.

Rejecting the referendum, supporters say, could cost taxpayers more when they fund future projects.

Opponents of the proposal say such a tax is poor timing in an already-struggling economy.

Paul Stone, with the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, says it is not fair for restaurant customers to bear the tax alone. He rejects the idea that people have a choice to eat at home if they are trying to save money.

"If it is something that is going to help the community, why is only one part of the business community paying for it?" he said. "Eating out is part of the fabric of America."

There is also controversy about who is helping tax opponents.

The Durham Citizens Against the Food Tax, organized by Dallas Woodhouse, the director of the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity in Wake County, has organized the opposition with some residents and the Restaurant and Lodging Association.

"I think it is unfair that somebody out of town is fighting this tax in Durham," Teer said.

"Our members in Durham want us to fight this, so that's who we're working for," Stone said.

Similar taxes have benefited other areas in the Triangle.

In Wake County, a food and beverage tax collected more than $16 million last year, helping to fund projects such as the RBC Center.

Hillsborough, Charlotte and Fayetteville have similar taxes.

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  • jacc1001 Nov 4, 2008

    More Government math:

    It could raise between $5 million and $7 million a year, officials estimate, with the average person paying a minimum of approximately $20 a year.

    "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the citizens of Durham," said Robb Teer, co-chairman of the Prepared Food Tax Steering Committee.

    Teer says that raising the same amount via property taxes would mean an additional $300 more a year on a $150,000 home.

    http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/3885259/

    It would cost approximately $20 a year per person, but the alternative is a $300 property tax. I don’t believe $20 a person would equate $300 per household. Sounds like fuzzy government math to me.

  • Just the facts mam Nov 4, 2008

    I say get rid of it in Wake County!

  • Broker - Back from Lurking Nov 4, 2008

    I voted against it - mostly b/c I know how Durham spends its money. Like a 6-year-old. But there are some backward voters in my city. Look at the former District Attorney! The Durham leadership feeds us a truckload of nonsense and calls it 'a once-in-a-lifetime oportunity'. If I sold investments with that kind of verbiage I would be (rightfully) thrown out of my profession.

  • Cristoforo Nov 4, 2008

    I voted against it! I don't think 'now' is the time to be taxing for frivolous projects!

  • in2horses Nov 4, 2008

    Death and Taxes....... the American way!!

  • 68_polara Nov 4, 2008

    "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the citizens of Durham," What? I don't think so Durham is constantly voting them selves tax increases but most of the time in the form of bonds. Which reminds me the follow bonds were just we passed in 2005

    from the city of Durham's own web site: "On November 8, 2005, Durham voters will consider more than 80 improvement projects in eight separate bond categories: public safety, cultural facilities, parks and recreation, public improvement, neighborhood improvement, streets and sidewalks, water and sewer, and parking."

    Doesn't that sound much like similar verbiage as to what is contained in the article today: "used to fund cultural and recreational projects." once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, huh? So what happened to the money from the bonds? Just call this town taxham.

  • Tripwire Nov 4, 2008

    I'm against taxing anything to pay for frivolous projects. There are far too many taxes being collected to begin with.

  • Go_Daddy_Go Nov 4, 2008

    Pretty amazing too, that Durham wants to pass a TAX to fund projects that were suppossed to be funded by the BOND that Durham passed last year (or the year before?)

  • jon2four Nov 4, 2008

    It just put a bad taste in my mouth.

  • jon2four Nov 4, 2008

    sorry ,but I doubt it will pass. I know I voted against it.

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